Lancaster native Hannah Daugherty might only be 19, but she is doing heavy lifting in the lead role in Studio Players’ new production, “Stop Kiss,” the 1998 play by Diana Son about how a lesbian couple’s lives are forever changed after becoming victims of a hate crime.
“Hannah is a brilliant young actress who understands the importance of good storytelling,” says Adanma Onyedike Barton, who directs the show. “I feel so blessed to work with Hannah just as she’s beginning her career.”
That a career got its start at the Lexington Children’s Theatre when Hannah auditioned for “Shrek: The Musical” and landed the role of the cow.
“It was my best role to date,” Daugherty quips during a phone interview. She went on to perform in several other LCT shows in high school before she headed off to Austin Peay State University to major in musical theater. She headed back to Kentucky, though, when she realized that the school wasn’t a good fit for her and her career goals.
Unlike many 19-year-olds who leave college, Daughtery knows exactly what she wants: to act. Right now. And she’s taking the most direct path to get there.
That’s why she decided to come home and work to save money to attend intense acting training at a conservatory.
“I’ve always been more interested in specialized training,” says Daugherty, who is auditioning for several conservatories and has been accepted into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy’s two-year program in Los Angeles — with a scholarship.
She says the academy is her “dream school,” but she’s continuing to audition for other programs to keep her options open.
She has this very cemented idea of what her life is and what the rest of her life is gonna be like, and Sara comes in and completely blows that idea to shreds, and she doesn’t really know how to handle it at first.
Hannah Daugherty on her character in ‘Stop Kiss’
Whatever Daugherty decides, she will be able to cite her role in “Stop Kiss” as her most substantial, grown-up role to date.
Daugherty’s character, Callie, is the kind of complex, flawed, challenging role that actors covet. At first, Daugherty worried that she was too young to play Callie, who is in her 20s, but she was thrilled land the role.
“Characters like Callie don’t exist very much,” she says. “She is a very strong woman, but she’s a very flawed character who is also very genuine. She has this very cemented idea of what her life is and what the rest of her life is gonna be like, and Sara comes in and completely blows that idea to shreds, and she doesn’t really know how to handle it at first.”
Daugherty says one of the most challenging things about playing Callie is that the show is non-linear, told in a series of non-chronological scenes, and the audience slowly puts together what happened between Callie and Sara, played by Eileen Doan.
“There’s one point in the show with a monologue explaining what happened in gruesome detail, and I mean it’s rough,” Daugherty says. “Tears come. Snot runs. It’s no fun and then literally in the next scene, I am like wine drunk with Sara, and it’s fine and we’re playing cards — that is definitely a challenge.”
For Daugherty, though, the challenge is part of the fun. She says, “If a role is not challenging you then you are not doing your job correctly.”
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer and critic.